Plumbers are tradesmen who install, repair, and maintain piping systems and related fixtures. These systems may include water distribution, sanitary waste removal, or even the distribution of steam and gases. Plumbers are also responsible for vent and drainage piping as well as piping used in heating and cooling systems.
Applicants who are looking for plumbing work can find positions in many different types of companies. Residential plumbing companies install new plumbing systems in single and multi-family homes and apartments. They are also called in to fix clogged piping or other problems when the system fails to perform properly. Those considering residential plumbing work should be prepared for irregular schedules, as they may be on call overnight, or on weekends and holidays.
Commercial plumbing professionals install new piping and fixtures in commercial buildings like schools and hospitals. Some plumbers may focus on general water and sanitary piping, while others specialize in sprinkler systems or gas piping. Candidates who can't find plumbing work in residential or commercial fields may also want to consider government or municipal positions. City and state governments hire plumbers to install new water and waste systems, and also to act as inspectors for systems installed by others. Municipal plumbing work often involves large scale piping and more complex plumbing systems.
The path to employment as a plumber is fairly standard throughout much of the world. Applicants start as apprentices, where they learn their trade through classroom and on-the-job training. An apprentice may not work without supervision by a more experienced plumber. To become an apprentice, candidates can follow programs created by local trade unions or trade schools. Depending on the region, an apprenticeship program can last from two to five years.
After an apprentice has successfully completed his training, he can act as a journeyman. A journeyman plumber can work unsupervised and can also supervise and train others. After a period of time in this role, the journeyman can pursue licensing or certification as a master plumber. This typically requires a certain number of years on the job along with the successful completion of an exam. A master plumber can perform almost any type of plumbing work, and is also able to secure building permits.
In the US, plumbing licenses and certification are granted by individual states. Requirements may differ slightly, but most licenses are transferable between US states. In the UK, plumbing licensing is overseen by the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers. Most European nations also have their own individual licensing programs and organizations in place for plumbers.